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Northeast Historical Archaeology

Abstract

The Spring Street Church was constructed in the early 19th century to accommodate worshipers in what was then the unsettled area north of the developed portion of New York City. Burial vaults were constructed alongside the church by circa 1820 and were in use for more than 20 years, when changing legislation regarding human burials in Manhattan forced the church to close the vaults. During the period of the vaults’ use, the Spring Street Church members participated in the Abolitionist movement and, as a result of the congregation's promotion of anti-slavery ideologies, the church was demolished by an angry mob during the Anti-Abolition Riots that terrorized New York in the summer of 1834. The church was rebuilt after the riots and would remain active for more than 150 years, despite periods of financial turmoil. However, through the actions of its loyal congregants, the church persevered until 1963, when reduced attendance and increased expenses forced the church to close. The property on which it stood was converted to a parking lot shortly thereafter, covering the burial vaults and those interred within them. This paper reviews the history of the Spring Street Church and discusses the role of both the church and its members in the abolitionist movement of the early 19th century.

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